Environmental Earth Sciences

, 78:689 | Cite as

Water footprint of hydraulic fracturing in Northeastern British Columbia, Canada

  • J. Wisen
  • R. ChesnauxEmail author
  • G. Wendling
  • J. Werring
Original Article


The method of hydraulic fracturing used to exploit unconventional shale gas has raised public concerns over the volumes of freshwater that are extracted for injection operations as well as the volumes of wastewater generated as a by-product of gas production. Using data from the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission, this paper examines the volumes of produced and injected water from hydraulically fractured gas wells in Northeastern British Columbia. The two major producing shale gas basins in the province are the Montney and the Horn River. In this study, these are divided into several sub-basins based on existing geological and reservoir engineering applications. For each sub-basin the average volumes of wastewater- and injected water per well are calculated and then normalized to cumulative gas production. Ratios of injected water: gas production and wastewater: gas production are then applied to estimated volumes of remaining gas reserves in each sub-basin in order to calculate a total water footprint of future exploitation. These extrapolated water footprints were further elaborated into three scenarios of wastewater recycling rates: 0, 40, and 100% re-use. This study also compares the quality and quantity of wastewater produced from hydraulically fractured wells to their conventional counterparts in the province. Based on these calculations, the total future freshwater withdrawal and wastewater production volumes for all basins range from 1.65 to 3 billion, and 0 to 1.35 billion cubic metres, respectively. Volumes of freshwater withdrawal are relatively modest compared to other industries when considering the size of Northeastern British Columbia and the time-scale of extraction. In general, hydraulically fractured wells in Northeastern British Columbia produce volumes of wastewater that are equal to or lower than those required for injection. Unconventional gas wells often produce far less wastewater than their conventional counterparts.


Shale gas Hydraulic fracturing Northeastern British Columbia Freshwater withdrawal Produced water Water footprint 



The authors would like to thank the MITACS Accelerate Program, which partnered the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) and GW Solutions inc. to provide funding for this research project. We would also like to thank the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Nature et technologies (FRQNT) which also provided research grant funding. One anonymous reviewer and Dr. Lamoreaux are thanked for their review of the manuscript. Ms. Josée Kaufmann is also thanked for editorial collaboration.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Wisen
    • 1
  • R. Chesnaux
    • 1
    Email author
  • G. Wendling
    • 2
  • J. Werring
    • 3
  1. 1.Université du Québec à ChicoutimiChicoutimiCanada
  2. 2.GW SolutionsNanaimoCanada
  3. 3.David Suzuki FoundationVancouverCanada

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